Why Love Feels Magical? Science Reveals Evolutionary Advantages
In the current scientific age, many view supernatural powers as illusions rooted in wishful thinking. But love remains the grave exception to mankind’s tendency to rationality.
People are used to seeing romantic love presented as a force cosmically bound to one’s destiny. Like the reality show The Bachelor. It’s an idea that’s both funny and strangely relatable to anyone who’s ever been in love and felt strongly that a pairing “should be”. Our research suggests that these magical notions of destined love and unique soulmates are both very common and deeply felt.
As psychologists interested in why humans think, feel and act the way they do, we ask a fundamental question: Why does love feel magical? I hope to shed some light on an issue that has long plagued those in love. Should we blindly trust our hearts? Or should we be skeptical of our tendency to think magically about love, seeking rationality in our pursuit of fulfilling relationships?
What is love, what does love want from me?
Romantic love, a far cry from anything poets and reality TV makers have recently invented, has been part of human nature for thousands of years. In fact, his 4,000-year-old love letters in Mesopotamia are very similar to those written today. Talks and expectations about romantic love vary from culture to culture, but the phenomenon seems to be virtually universal. Furthermore, our research suggests that the notions of destined love and soulmate magic are both very common and deeply felt.
But why is love a natural part of the human mind? Our research explores this question through the lens of evolutionary psychology.
Evolutionary psychology is based on the idea that people think and act the way they do today. Because for hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors with traits that made them think and act that way were more likely to survive and reproduce. , or pass on the “adaptive” trait to the next generation. Through this process, the human mind has evolved to prioritize things that contribute to survival and reproduction, such as nutritious food and potential mates who are likely to raise healthy offspring.
From this perspective, the dizzying feeling of falling in love and the illogical belief that relationships “should be” are how our ancestors survived and proliferated. Did it help? One explanation says that the key to love’s ancient purpose lies in the apartment rental agreement.
love is like signing a lease
Why do people agree to long-term rentals of apartments? After all, tenants can find better apartments sooner, and landlords may find better tenants.
The short answer is that searching for the perfect apartment or tenant is a cumbersome and costly process, so it’s better to have an imperfect but sufficient lease for the long term. A signed lease agreement provides an important bond, ensuring that the lure of other options doesn’t spoil those useful arrangements.
People face much the same commitment problem when it comes to choosing a partner. Given the magnitude of this commitment, there is plenty of motivation to do it right by finding the best possible partner.
However, finding the ideal partner is resource-intensive and difficult. In other words, dating sucks. To solve the problem of commitment and successfully pass on genes, it is generally better to commit to a good enough partner rather than the endless pursuit of perfection. It may have spawned, it solves the commitment problem and offers an “engrossing reward” for this solution.
Love may have evolved primarily to support sexual reproduction, but of course love is still part of life for gays, asexuals, and other people who do not reproduce sexually. Scientists who have studied the evolution of attraction argue that romantic relationships can provide adaptive advantages even in the absence of sexual reproduction. From a strictly evolutionary perspective, there is no single “normal” or “ideal” way of being.
love makes you commit
After going through the stages of falling in love with a breathtaking partner, love helps secure commitment in several ways.
First, other potential spouses seem relatively depressed. Compared to single people, people in satisfying relationships rate other good-looking people as less attractive. , discourages partners from pursuing other romantic options.
Secondly, love causes jealousy. This is a “spousal protection” adaptation that motivates vigilance and defense against anyone who might threaten your relationship. Jealousy is a burden that, in extreme cases, can have terrifying consequences, but evolutionary psychologists argue that jealousy can help prevent cheating and attempts to steal your partner.
And finally, as our team is investigating in ongoing research, the supernatural “should” stories people tell about love can increase their confidence in the value of their relationships.
Why Magical Beliefs About Love Work
Our work, though based on fantasy, explores how magical thinking can be adapted. Unlike lease agreements, emotions are often wild and unpredictable. Beyond just a sense of connectedness, believing in stories that suggest your relationship is magically “as it should be” can provide a consistent reason to stay together for the long haul.
The magical belief in destined love is almost certainly false when viewed objectively, but if it helps cement a long-term commitment with a good partner, it serves an adaptive purpose and therefore As neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth put it, love is “an irrational bond made rational by its own existence.”
So it makes sense that love feels magical, even if magical love doesn’t make sense logically. As we read through this research, it is suggested that love magic can help people put in the great effort necessary to successfully pass on their genes.
don’t think too much
But what if you know that love magic exists not to lead you to happiness or an accurate perception of reality, but to achieve the straightforward and practical purpose of evolution to pass your genes on to future generations? Good? Definitely improve the advice of so many contestants on “The Bachelor” to “follow your heart” and blindly trust them to find meaning in their pursuit of biological imperatives. increase.
Yet there is a grain of truth in that cliché. If you rebel against that magical mindset, chances are he’s overthinking how to get out of one of life’s greatest gifts.
- Benjamin Kaveladze – PhD Candidate in Psychological Science, University of California, Irvine
- Jonathan Schooler – Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Oliver Sng – Assistant Professor of Psychological Science, University of California, Irvine
This article was originally published in The Conversation.